17 Ways to Strengthen Friendships During the Pandemic

Aug 20, 2020 | by The Salvation Army

“If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.” – Zig Ziglar 

Good friends are invaluable. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we interact with our friends. With so much uncertainty and so many life transitions taking place—we’re talking job changes, sick and dying family members, mandated isolation—we all need friends now more than ever. Pandemic or not, here are some ways you can deepen your friendships and encourage the people you care about.

1. Ask questions and actively listen. Especially now, when many people go days without speaking to someone in person or only speak with their children or spouse, asking friends how they’re feeling and actively listening to their response makes a powerful statement. It’s amazing how such a small gesture can make a big impact.
2. Take notes. It might feel silly or overly formal to jot down a few notes from a call with a friend, but you’d be surprised how easily we forget the details of our friends' lives. Following up with a friend about an upcoming work project they’ve been stressing about or a movie they’re excited to see can be a great way to show you’re paying attention and that you care. If your mind is focused on other things, taking notes and setting reminders can help show you care without relying on memory alone.
3. Make a small and simple offer. Next time you go to the grocery store, ask your friend if there’s anything you could pick up for them.
4. Pray for them. For believers, prayer is powerful. If you’re a praying person, consider praying weekly or even daily on behalf of a friend who could use the support.
5. Tell them you’re thinking of them. It feels good to be seen and remembered, especially when many people are working at home, where their efforts go largely unnoticed. A simple “Thinking of you today!” text can go a long way.
6. Mail an encouraging card or letter. Unexpected mail (we’re not talking bills here!) is always fun to receive.
7. Schedule a time to get together. Whether it’s a socially distanced visit through the window or meeting at an outdoor restaurant for a meal together, find a way to be physically close to your friend while respecting each other’s comfort and personal boundaries. If your friend is spontaneous, an unexpected drop-in might be the perfect way to support them.
8. Pay for a dinner delivery. Many people have relied on food services during the coronavirus outbreak. Send or email a gift card for your friend’s favorite restaurant or preferred food delivery service and give the gift of a night off from cooking and cleaning.
9. Tell your friend what you admire about him. A genuine compliment always brings positivity to someone’s day!
10. Recommend a book, movie, podcast...or even an awesome kitchen appliance. If something has made your life easier, share the good news with the friends you care about most. Bonus points if it’s free to access!
11. Remind your friend of your favorite shared memories. Not only will it inspire feelings of easier and perhaps happier times, it will also let your friend know that you’re thinking of them, which always feels good. Sharing pictures from those events can evoke even more enjoyment.
12. Get vulnerable. The pandemic has affected people in vastly different ways. Opening up about what’s been hard for you can give your friend the encouragement they need to share their struggles and trials. Practice vulnerability and initiate discussions about your weaknesses or struggles.
13. Send a “just because” gift. It doesn’t have to be something large or expensive. Even mailing one of your favorite books is the perfect encouraging gesture.
14. Encourage them in their goals and aspirations. Many people had big plans and dreams for 2020 and the new decade. Sadly, many of these aspirations fell by the wayside once COVID-19 turned our lives upside down. If your friends’ plans have been circumvented since the shelter in place order, encourage them to revisit their original goals and keep pressing forward—and offer to help in any way possible. Sometimes a little nudge in the right direction is all it takes to keep moving forward.
15. Promote your friends’ business or hobby. This is especially important if your friend owns or works for a small business that has been heavily impacted by the pandemic and shelter-in-place orders. Rave about their business to another group of friends or share their company’s social media posts with your network. Let your friends know you’ve got their back during this challenging time.
16. Respect their views and boundaries. Everyone has had to make decisions about the level of risk they’re willing to take on (or avoid). Whether working at the store or working from home, facilitating distanced learning or heading back to in-person classes, whether visiting friends and family every week or remaining home in total isolation for months...we all have different circumstances, fears, privileges, and opportunities that shape how we want to live during the pandemic. Be sure to respect your friends’ views and personal comfort level, even if it doesn’t perfectly align with your beliefs.
17. Try something new...together! Enjoy a virtual food or beverage tasting together via Zoom. Stream a new series on Netflix in tandem. Take up a new hobby and set daily goals for one another. Learning something new with someone you care about is always a great way to deepen your relationship.

Genuine friendships are a blessing. Despite the circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic, we hope these suggestions will help you strengthen your friendships and encourage one another from afar.

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